Historic Sites Garner A Dozen+ Grants from IMLS

The Institute for Museum and Library Services recently announced the awards for the latest round of Museums for America grants, which include projects at more than a dozen historic places.  It’s always a quick way to see what’s happening around the country to get ideas as well as identify what projects are attractive to funders.  Congratulations to the recipients, especially our colleagues who are working with historic sites, including:

Kodiak Historical Society – Kodiak, AK
Award Amount: $52,706; Matching Amount: $52,810
Contact: Ms. Anjuli Grantham, Curator of Collections
(907) 486-5920; anjuli@baranovmuseum.org

The Kodiak Historical Society will complete design development for 2,800 square feet of exhibits at the Baranov Museum, located within the National Historic Landmark building known as the Russian-American Magazin. The project will foster the planning and design of exhibits that use the museum’s assets and better reflect the diversity of the community. The project work will include a complete interpretive design, detailed floor plans for exhibit flow, and construction documents to guide exhibit implementation. The primary themes for the exhibits focus on the magazin—featuring 200 years of Alaska history, and cultural diversity—a central facet of Kodiak’s historic and contemporary reality.

Mission Inn Foundation – Riverside, CA
Award Amount: $127,500; Matching Amount: $132,048
Contact: Mr. John Worden, Executive Director
(951) 788-8462; johnworden@missioninnmuseum.com

Mission Inn Foundation will engage the community through the creation of StoryShare, designed to make a new generation aware of the relevance of arts and cultural heritage. StoryShare is a three-pronged initiative created to ensure that the history we preserve is shared with, by, and for the next generation of community members. Regional teacher and school district curriculum specialist workshops will train teachers to use the Hands on History website—with lesson plans linked to history/social science as well as language arts standards for students in grades three to twelve. StoryShare will pair youth in afterschool programs with writers, photographers, and historians to help students explore, document, and share the history of their neighborhoods.

Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego – San Diego, CA
Award Amount: $83,150; Matching Amount: $84,725
Contact: Ms. Marisa Espinosa, Operations Assistant
(619) 232-2721; jfgs@niwa.org

In partnership with five other Japanese gardens, the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego will implement a collaborative project called the Zen of Multi-Touch. Together with Balboa Park Online, the project will create interactive virtual tours of the participating gardens, produce a photography exhibit of the six gardens’ panoramic images, and develop a mobile audio tour. It will help the gardens increase public knowledge of Japanese heritage, excite and engage more than 100,000 visitors through participatory exhibits, and strengthen connections among Japanese gardens in the United States.

Lyme Historical Society – Old Lyme, CT
Award Amount: $124,386; Matching Amount: $169,869
Contact: Mr. David Rau, Director of Education and Outreach adult programs
(860) 434-5542 x115; david@flogris.org

The Lyme Historical Society will expand the use of the historic grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum will expand the use of its historic grounds to better serve the region as a community gathering place. Inspired by and taking its name from the open-air common courtyards of ancient Greece, the museum’s Agora Project will more effectively use the riverfront campus as an entry through which visitors can explore the museum’s full range of resources. The museum will design, test, and implement outdoor interpretive tools essential to communicating the site’s historical significance. The museum will use outdoor reading rails positioned where historic paintings were made, sites where important events of the Lyme Art Colony happened, and a portable learning cart equipped with educational materials and technological resources that will prompt learning and inspire creativity outdoors.

President Lincoln’s Cottage – Washington, DC
Award Amount: $79,956; Matching Amount: $90,385
Contact: Ms. Erin Carlson-Mast, Director
(202) 829-0436; Erin_CarlsonMast@nthp.org

President Lincoln’s Cottage, operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will launch a year-long interpretive planning process to review key aspects of its guided tour experience and implement a new system design focused on cost-effective, adaptable equipment. The cottage will upgrade its methodology to create a cost-effective, multisensory experience for visitors while giving interpreters an array of tools and means of storing notes for themselves and fellow interpreters to build a base of shared knowledge. Lincoln developed his Emancipation Proclamation and led the country through the Civil War during his 13 months in residence at the cottage.

Dubuque County Historical Society – Dubuque, IA
Award Amount: $122,349; Matching Amount: $124,833
Contact: Ms. Cristin Waterbury, Registrar / Collections Manager
(563) 557-9545×204; cwaterbury@rivermuseum.com

The Dubuque County Historical Society will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle for Vicksburg by creating an exhibit focusing on the important yet little-known story of The Mississippi River and the Civil War. The exhibit will highlight the crucial role of the region’s significance in one of the longest and most complicated historic campaigns of the war. The exhibit will explore the themes of the war for control of the Mississippi and life on the homefront in the divergent river cities of Dubuque, Iowa, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. It will feature two narratives to engage children, The Drummer Boy and The Soldier Girl. Interactives and curricula for school groups will be developed.

Kentucky Historical Society – Frankfort, KY
Award Amount: $110,010; Matching Amount: $110,095
Contact: Mr. Mike Deetsch, Interpretive Education Administrator
(502) 564-1792; mike.deetsch@ky.gov

The Kentucky Historical Society will use its grant for la curriculum called “The Right Answer,” is a partnership between KHS and Kentucky schools. The initiative will increase students’ skills in visual literacy, historical literacy, and critical thinking with the aid of historical collections. KHS will conduct a pilot study that will result in a scalable curriculum that can be disseminated statewide. The program will provide schools with a dynamic set of primary and secondary sources that can be used to teach across a broad range of disciplines, including history, social studies, government, humanities, reading, writing, and fine arts.

Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities – Boston, MA
Award Amount: $142,559; Matching Amount: $153,163
Contact: Ms. Julie Solz, Team Leader for Collections Services
(617) 994-6630; jsolz@historicnewengland.org

Historic New England will improve and enhance public access to its nationally significant 6,000-design wallpaper collection. The project will catalogue, digitize, and rehouse 2,000 items in the Waterhouse Archive for Historic Wallpapers, 100 individual photographs, 26 photo albums of domestic interiors that contain approximately 1,000 images, 76 wallpaper sample books, and 20 pieces of wallpaper ephemera. In addition, it will create new high-quality imagery and updated catalogue records for 4,250 previously documented wallpaper samples, expand the quantity of archival material present on the website, and redesign the wallpaper section of the website to improve usability. Together, these activities will increase by 50 percent the number of online records from the wallpaper collection, will make high-resolution zoomable images available for the first time, and will provide more effective search and browse capabilities for visitors.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, MA
Award Amount: $70,600; Matching Amount: $73,400
Contact: Ms. Margaret Burchenal, Curator of Education and Public Programs
(617) 278-5123; pburchenal@isgm.org

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will develop a series of twelve two- to three-minute films designed to make the work of the museum more accessible to visitors. Over two years, museum educators will collaborate with curators, artists-in-residence, conservators, gardeners, and community members to develop collection-centered films exploring the process of creating and responding to art. Films will be available for viewing on the museum’s website and on kiosks in the Gardner’s new visitor orientation space. Project goals are to increase access to the museum’s collection, which is limited due to gallery size, and encourage deeper engagement by local audiences by showing them multiple approaches to the permanent collection.

American Textile History Museum – Lowell, MA
Award Amount: $94,806; Matching Amount: $103,043
Contact: Ms. Clare Sheridan, Librarian
(978) 441-0400 x 228; csheridan@athm.org

The American Textile History Museum will accession, catalogue, and scan 2,600 photographs of textile workers, textile mills and machinery, and views of textile cities and towns from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as 1,950 insurance maps of textile mills dating from 1872 to 1953. Images and information will then be uploaded to the museum’s website. This project constitutes the final phase of a four-phase effort to improve intellectual control of and online access to the museum’s library and curatorial collections through the Chace Catalogue. The materials will be of particular interest to architects and renovators of mill buildings, engineers, urban planners, historians, textile artists and designers, and genealogists, as well as teachers, students, publishers, filmmakers, and exhibit designers.

Louis Armstrong House Museum – Corona, NY
Award Amount: $42,305; Matching Amount: $43,297
Contact: Mr. Michael Cogswell, Director
(718) 997-3670; michael.cogswell@qc.cuny.edu

The Louis Armstrong House Museum will arrange, preserve, catalogue, and make available to the public the contents of the recently acquired Gösta Hägglöf Collection of Armstrong material. Approximately 192 cubic feet in extent and covering at least four decades, the collection is especially strong in European concert recordings, news clippings, periodicals, photographs, and correspondence. The work will be supported by interns from the Queens College Graduate School of Library Studies and the College’s Aaron Copland School of Music. Once the materials are processed, the museum will make them available to researchers, students, scholars, and the general public via its website. The materials may also be exhibited and, when appropriate, lent to other organizations.

Eldridge Street Project – New York, NY
Award Amount: $149,906; Matching Amount: $175,904
Contact: Ms. Amy Stein-Milford, Deputy Director
(212) 219-0888 x 201; asteinmilford@eldridgestreet.org

The museum at Eldridge will use its grant to develop and implement a new orientation experience for visitors. The disorientation visitors now experience upon approaching, entering, and making their way through the building’s entryway, and the confusion generated by the building’s multiple identities—museum, landmark, and synagogue—has presented a challenge to visitors. The museum will create an inviting, informative, and engaging introductory experience focused on how a visitor first encounters the museum. The project will benefit approximately 150,000 visitors.

Reynolda House – Winston Salem, NC
Award Amount: $137,698; Matching Amount: $137,947
Contact: Ms. Emily Wilder Santillo, Assistant Director, Creative Services
(336) 758-5518; wildereh@reynoldahouse.org

The Reynolda House will implement Phase II of a website redesign project that will include development, implementation, testing, and evaluation of the new site with the goal of launching a new online presence in 2013. This website project presents an opportunity for Reynolda House, recognized as the Southeast’s premier collection of American art, to rethink the possibilities of digital engagement with its visitors. The museum’s core values will guide the site’s development, create a welcoming environment, pursue excellence, and support personal learning. Digital documentation of the museum’s decorative arts, historical archives, and fine art collection is the first step in providing complete access to the museum’s rich resources and educational opportunities.

Westcott House Foundation – Springfield, OH
Award Amount: $94,400; Matching Amount: $214,110
Contact: Ms. Marta Wojcik, Executive Director and Curator
(937) 327-9291; mwojcik@westcotthouse.org

The Westcott House Foundation, in partnership with two major universities, the STEM Academy of Springfield High School, designers, artists and the regional community, will create Solar@Westcott Experiential Design Lab. The selected site will be transformed into a community garden and public green space showcasing the Solar Decathlon House, designed by architecture students of The Ohio State University for an international competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy. Through a series of design-education activities, the museum audience will engage in dialogue about sustainable practices and gain a better understanding of the opportunities for community improvement presented by creative and innovative design.

Wyck Association – Philadelphia, PA
Award Amount: $148,643; Matching Amount: $172,108
Contact: Eileen Rojas, Executive Director
(215) 848-1690; erojas@wyck.org

Wyck Historic House, Garden and Farm, a National Historic Landmark in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, will expand its “Home Farm and Farmers Market” and youth education programs by piloting a series of “Second Saturday Festivals.” The museum will develop targeted programs to meet the needs of specific constituents: underserved school children in Germantown needing a safe place to experience and learn from nature; neighborhood residents seeking nutritious, affordable local produce; and community members and students interested in broadening their knowledge in horticulture, preservation, and history. It serves as an outdoor classroom for children and adults. The farmers market increases access to fresh, low-cost/subsidized produce for residents of the Germantown neighborhood and extended community.

Preservation Society of Newport County – Newport, RI
Award Amount: $147,261; Matching Amount: $179,612
Contact: Ms. Miranda Peters, Collections Manager
(401) 847-1000 x 146; mpeters@newportmansions.org

The Preservation Society of Newport County will conduct an inventory of nearly 54,000 objects and will digitize 157 selected items from its eleven historic houses representing American culture from the Colonial Era through the Gilded Age. Project activities will include updating and standardizing object descriptions, locations, and condition assessments; creating clear photographs of each object; and professionally photographing a subset of priority objects to post on a new collections section of the museum’s website. By improving the accuracy, user-friendliness, and accessibility of the museum’s database, the project will allow the museum to better serve outside researchers and the general public; improve collections management; and advance the organization’s ability to support collections-based exhibitions, publications, and educational programs.

Historic Columbia Foundation – Columbia, SC
Award Amount: $141,047; Matching Amount: $213,009
Contact: Mr. James Quint, Education Coordinator
(803) 252-1770; jquint@historiccolumbia.org

Historic Columbia Foundation, in partnership with Richland County School District One, the University of South Carolina, and the Columbia Housing Authority, will implement, review, and refine a series of youth and senior programs and activities and develop a community engagement plan for the Mann-Simons site, one of seven historic properties managed by the foundation and one of only a few sites in South Carolina once owned by free blacks prior to the Civil War. The project will use local history as the catalyst to extend meaningful outreach programs to high school students and senior citizens and enable the foundation to build greater organizational capacity for community engagement.

Mariners’ Museum – Newport News, VA
Award Amount: $96,100; Matching Amount: $158,877
Contact: Mr. Marc Marsocci, Manager, Digitial Media & Exhibit Technology
(757) 591-7771; mmarsocci@marinersmuseum.org

The Mariners’ Museum will catalogue and digitize its 10,000-item archive relating to the USS Monitor and the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862, and make the documents accessible online in order to create a digital library, the timing of which will coincide with the sesquicentennial anniversary of the battle. Activities will include procuring and setting up digitizing equipment; updating the museum’s collections software; migrating existing records, cataloguing and entering metadata into the collections management system, digitizing the materials, and uploading the digital photographs and metadata into the collections management system. Thumbnail images and collection metadata will be available through WorldCat.org and on the museum’s website. This is the first phase of a large digitization effort seeking to increase access to the museum’s collections and accommodate a large and more global audience of maritime scholars and enthusiasts, Civil War scholars, academics, and students.

If you’re considering a similar project, I suggest calling the award recipient and asking if they would be willing to share the narrative from their grant application with you or giving you tips and suggestions on your project. Most folks in the museum field are very generous and helpful.  If you applied and didn’t receive a grant, be sure to obtain the comments from the review panel–it’s free advice to strengthen your next application.